Palino’s Whale sized problems

John Palino found out at his Auckland mayoralty campaign launch yesterday that he is going to find it difficult separating himself from Cameron Slater and Whale Oil.

In response to a question Palino said “Whaleoil is NOT working for me. Why do you keep saying that?”

The answer is obvious, and the question is likely to keep being asked through Palino’s campaign.

Palino has engaged one of Slater’s closest associates Simon Lusk to run his campaign.

Another long time Slater associate Carrick Graham was assisting Palino at his launch yesterday.

PalinoGrahamlaunch

John Palino and Carrick Graham at mayoralty campaign launch

And it was reported that Slater arranged an interview for Palino with Fairfax that was published in the weekend.

Slater was heavily involved in the Len Brown affair revelations after the last election, which included apparent attempts to force Brown out of office. There were suggestions of blackmail and fabricated evidence.

Palino says he knew nothing about all this but these associations are likely to hover over his campaign unless he can find a way of dealing with them.

At his launch Palino said “I don’t play dirty”.  So why his he using two central characters of ‘Dirty Politics’, Lusk and Graham, with the star of dirt Slater apparently involved?

At the very least that’s a very risky political gamble.

And his first response to media didn’t help his ‘no dirt’ insistence

“Look I don’t know why people are going on about that. I wasn’t the one caught with his pants down in the Ngati Whatua Room. Next question please.”

That low blow appeared like a hammy delivery of a prepared line straight out of a Whale’s mouth. In fact there are numerous examples of similar at Whale Oil. Like this from last June:

Today’s face of the day is Auckland Mayor Len Brown who may end up better known for breaking his promises to rate payers than being caught with his pants down in the Ngati Whatua room.

Palino has a huge challenge trying to separate himself from Whale Oil and dirt.

What is Palino thinking?

John Palino is expected to launch his second attempt at the Auckland mayoralty today.

He has some major association  problems to overcome.

He gave an interview to Fairfax and not surprisingly wants to put the debacle that followed his election loss in 2013 behind him.

John Palino: why it’s time to forget about Len Brown’s sex scandal

But let’s rewind to that kaBOOM – the detonation that appeared to destroy Palino, American-born restaurateur, TV personality and entrepreneur who’d picked up a handy 109,000 votes against Brown’s 164,000.

Palino looked a villain because it seemed kinda obvious he must have played a part: Wewege was his guy; Brown’s downfall could benefit him. More damningly, Chuang said just after the election, and just before she blabbed to Cook, she met Palino on a Mission Bay carpark and the pair talked for 90 minutes about the affair and how it might still be used to force Brown to step down. She said Palino offered her a job on his team. It sounded really bad.

Except, says Palino, it wasn’t true and he wants to set the record straight.

“I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t have sex with someone. I’m an innocent bystander who said I’ve got nothing to do with it. I’m sick and tired of the lies that I’m hearing.”

Except that even if the record is set straight and Palino was totally uninvolved in the Len Brown affair and the attempt to depose Brown just after he’d won an election he has some awkward things to try and explain.

He has plans to fix Auckland’s congestion, housing affordability, city intensification, unemployment, corruption – the works. He’s not a politician but that’s a good thing, and he knows about leadership: “I believe in hiring the right people for the job. The mayor is about managing those people.”

But his management of people he hired for his last campaign, Wewege and Chuang, raise serious questions about his ability to hire the right people for the job. Wegege was in a relationship with Chuang who had been in a relationship with Palino’s opponent.

And Wewege seems to have to encouraged Chuang to go public via Whale Oil to try and overturn a democratic result.

Won’t he get bogged down answering questions about Wewege? About Mission Bay and Chuang? About the culture within his last campaign? Three years ago commentators said his reputation was shot, so what’s changed? Or to put it another way: John Palino, are you fricken serious?

What has changed?

His campaign manager is changing. Last time it was John Slater. This time Palino has taken on

In light of that, here’s an interesting fact: Palino’s new campaign manager is Simon Lusk. (It’s Lusk, Palino presumes, who got Cameron Slater to approach Fairfax about this interview.)

Lusk’s critics see him as unapologetic avatar of the dirtiest of politics. His own website boasts of a track record working “behind the scenes” to “remove” MPs and councillors who have “caused problems”. Is Lusk the person Palino needs while still shrugging off his alleged connection to a famous smear campaign?

“I need good people and he’s good at what he does,” says Palino. “But I don’t want any dirty politics. It’s not me.

If someone wanted to separate themselves from dirty politics I’d have thought that some of the last people you would choose to associate with would be Lusk and Cameron Slater.

“I need to make sure my team doesn’t do things like that. It’s up to me.”

Who has ever succeeded in making sure Slater didn’t play dirty. He brags about how dirty he is, how dirty politics is and should be, and how no one controls what he does.

Palino may genuinely want clean but if so it’s extremely hard to fathom why he would choose some of the dirtiest political operators in New Zealand without being aware of the difficulty that would create for his campaign.

If Palino is intelligent he must know this. Has he been sucked in by Lusk and Slater? Or is his campaign some sort of very deliberate, cunning plan.

If it involves Slater’s cunning then Auckland could be in for a train wreck mayoralty campaign. How many people have been let down by him?

Update: And it’s been claimed that Carrick Graham is managing Palino’s launch today.

 

Brown eased out, Goff lining up

It looks like Len Brown is being deserted by his own team.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown loses backing of top campaign team

Advisers want Goff/Hulse to run for mayor.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has lost the backing of key members of his campaign team, who are turning their attention to other left-leaning candidates at next year’s local body elections.

The Herald has learned of a meeting last month where key campaign and mayoral advisers delivered the “blunt message” to Mr Brown that he has no chance of winning and should step down.

At least two of Mr Brown’s inner circle have held talks with Mt Roskill MP and former Labour leader Phil Goff about standing for the mayoralty.

There is also support for deputy mayor Penny Hulse, who has expressed interest but said she would never stand against Mr Brown.

It is understood Mr Brown was shaken by the actions of his campaign team and mayoral staff, some of whom are longstanding friends. He has not responded to their request.

All Brown could do was several over the top laughs when interviewed for 3 News – Len Brown tight-lipped on campaign team’s support.– while the currently have the wrong video linked they are displaying an uncomplimentary image:

LenBrown3NewsAnd Phil Goff is lining up to take his place – Goff considers Auckland mayoralty bid

Senior Labour politician Phil Goff says he is giving deep and serious consideration to running for the Auckland mayoralty.

The veteran MP for Mt Roskill, who has served for 15 of his 31 years in Parliament as a cabinet minister in portfolios including foreign affairs, defence and housing, said today he had received approaches “from right across the community” to lead the SuperCity but had yet to make up his mind.

“It’s something that I need to give some pretty deep thought to.”

Phil Goff says he can’t say and won’t say if he has had discussions with Len Brown’s team about standing for Mayor… (reads: yes he has)

It was likely Brown would have difficulty getting sufficient support to stand again.

And Goff has been suggested as a mayoral candidate for Auckland for some time. He would probably do well in a campaign and could make a good mayor.

And Labour get to bring someone new in to their caucus which is overdue for renewal.

It could work out well all round (apart from for Brown of course).

Bets are off Sky City’s stupid gamble

Sky City did a deal with the Government. They got gambling concessions in return for the promise of a convention centre in Auckland.

Now Sky say their cost estimates have gone up and they need financial assistance.

But Len Brown says the Auckland City Council won’t fork out – Ratepayer cash won’t go into convention centre, mayor promises.

Auckland mayor Len Brown says the council will not put any ratepayer cash into building or running an international convention centre.

He told the Weekend Herald yesterday that there would be no money for the SkyCity convention centre in a new 10-year budget.

The council and Mr Brown were blindsided by suggestions from the Government and SkyCity before Christmas that ratepayers’ money be used to fund the shortfall in costs for the controversial project.

SkyCity said the original $402 million cost had been “revised” to $470 million and to $530 million.

That doesn’t rule out non-cash assistance such as rates relief, and…

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce floated the idea of ratepayers helping cover operating costs, but has since talked down the idea and suggested the council look at its regulatory fees for the consent and construction process.

But ruling out cash is sensible, and essential.

Who would want to finance a company who makes a deal based on costings that under-esitmated (or under-claimed) the cost by 20-30%?

Sky either cocked up or cooked up a massive con.

And the Government should discount any financial assistance too. They negotiated a deal based on no cost to taxpayers.

If National now bow to Sky’s coercion/attempted blackmail and fork out they will rightfully be blasted for it. It would look  that bad it would be likely to play a major part in the demise of Key’s government.

It would be a stupid business gamble and a very stupid political gamble.

And Sky have made a stupid gamble thinking they can fool us on their cost claims and suck us in to finance their folly.

Call their bluff. If they renege on their deal and ditch the convention centre Sky will be the biggest losers.

In gambling you need to know when to walk away.

RMA reform – same old opposition

Nick Smith says National is reviewing the most contentious parts of it’s last (failed) attempt at RMA reform and stated “National’s “preference” to build support beyond a bare majority” but “made it clear that the party was prepared to do so with just the support of the single MP of the Act Party”.

National pushes on with Resource Management Act reform is a bit contradictory.

After failing to gain the support it needed to pass changes proposed in 2012 during the last term, today National signalled that it could use its stellar election result to proceed – with little change.

Although Environment Minister Nick Smith said it was National’s “preference” to build support beyond a bare majority, the MP for Nelson made it clear that the party was prepared to do so with just the support of the single MP of the Act Party, which has long objected to what it considers to be an anti-development bias in the environmental legislation.

“Our first duty is make changes to the RMA that make the act work better for New Zealand. If we can’t get the support of the Maori Party and the United Future Party to be able to advance the reforms, then we will still be progressing with the support of the ACT Party,” Smith said.

Smith signalled that National was reviewing the most contentious of its proposed reforms of the RMA, covering changes to the act’s principles – a move critics have argued would aid development – but otherwise the tone of today’s speech was consistent with the last term.

“It’s consistent with the direction that was set in 2012, but there’s still a lot of detail in the amendments to deliver the overall package of reform,” Smith said.

He expected “intense discussion” over some of the “hundreds” of amendments to the existing legislation.

Not surprisingly the ‘Opposition” opposes it, for now at least.

Labour leader Andrew Little

…said the changes would do nothing to cut the price of building or increase the supply of affordable homes.

“National has spent six years claiming they will change the RMA to make housing more affordable but have yet to produce any tangible solutions. Nick Smith’s proposals are underwhelming and show the Government is out of ideas.

“It is critical that changes to benefit housing are not used as a smokescreen to undermine the environmental protection standards.”.

NZ First leader Winston Peters…

…said if the government was to curb rising house prices it needed to deal with speculation, immigration and a lack of construction.

“The minister’s planned changes to the RMA to address housing affordability do nothing of the sort, they are just a sop to developers. He is blaming the RMA for a high price of Kiwi homes, the lack of supply and making speculators rich as a red herring to National’s complete failure.”

The Green Party…

…said the changes would not build more homes.

“The Government has the ability to build affordable homes and address the housing crisis now but it is simply not doing it. New Zealand needs a major state home building programme, to meet the need for new homes and drive down high prices,” Green Party RMA spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said.

But the mayor of the major housing problem area approves.

The reforms would streamline “complex” processes for house-strapped Auckland, Mayor Len Brown says.

Brown said Auckland Council had been working closely with the government to find a solution to Auckland’s housing crises.

“From Auckland Council’s perspective, there is considerable scope to improve the RMA,” he said.

“In particular streamlining the complex processes councils are required to work within, reducing duplication and providing more affordable housing.

“I particularly welcome recognition of the needs of cities and urban areas, including housing and infrastructure, which the current legislation doesn’t cover well.

Wider support will depend on what changes National are prepared to make.

Radio NZ reports Smith’s RMA speech strident, says Dunne – Dunne has appeared to be peeved that so far he has been left out of the loop and doesn’t know if he will support changes or not.

He said he had thought the Government was moving down a more pragmatic path, but he was not so sure.

“I just don’t quite know what the intended strategy is here. This speech just leaves you wondering frankly.”

Mr Dunne said the speech was short on detail, so he was still no closer to knowing whether he could support any changes.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell…

…said he still believed the Government was willing to compromise, even though it no longer needed their support.

“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge yet, these things are by negotiation and I detect certainly a desire to work with us.

The detail and the debate is yet to come so it’s too early to tell how thios reform will be dealt with.

Mayoral security required for opening of an envelope

Seven security guards were present when  Auckland mayor Len Brown attended an opening of an envelope.

The council Mail Management Centre said they arranged for the security. They defended the cost, saying they were worried that high profile minister Michael Woodhouse might be criticised in a letter to the mayor.

Brown “not totally focussed”

Auckland mayor Len Brown has said he was…

…”not totally focused” on the upgrades taking him over the $300 limit for gifts that must be disclosed under council rules.

That’s a nonsensical excuse for not following basic disclosure requirements. What does it mean? He was almost fully focussed but not quite?

It doesn’t explain whether he was too slack to follow procedures he must have been aware of. Or whether he deliberately chose to not disclose the hotel bookings.

This probably won’t be answered by the mayor any time soon because it is now subject to a private prosecution – Embattled mayor faces new date: in court:

Two charging documents sent to Auckland District Court by retired Wellington accountant Graham McCready state that between November 2010 and November last year, Mr Brown accepted for himself and his wife Shan Inglis three complimentary hotel rooms and five free room upgrades from SkyCity and SkyCity Grand Hotels.

The gifts, worth about $4600 by Mr McCready’s calculations, led to “favourable consideration” given by Mr Brown towards SkyCity and parent company SkyCity Casinos, say the documents.

“He subsequently voted on matters relating to those entities without disclosing the fact of the gifts in his register of interests, or disqualifying himself,” the documents say.

Since his re-election Brown has been “not totally focussed” on his mayoral duties, being notably absent from duties.

This prosecution will also hang over him, further not totally focussing him on his job.

Before Christmas Brown’s position as mayor was widely seen as untenable. That hasn’t changed. Brown’s holiday break has just been a lull before the pressure on him resumes, and it is unlikely to back off.

How now down trou Brown?

Len Brown has been caught out with his trou down, literally and politically. His mayoralty lies crumpled around his ankles with virtually no chance of his political career being raised again. (Presumably his marriage is also in tatters too but it’s not known what sort of relationship Brown had with his wife and what the current state of matrimony is.)

Pants downBrown seems to have no one but those whose jobs rely on him remaining mayor on his side.

The media have turned against Brown, with NZ Herald notably scathing and damning:

The light has gone out in the mayoral office and Brown is left stumbling in a black hole of his own digging. John Roughan:

People who have had dealings with Len Brown of late say it is awkward. The light has gone from his eyes. He can see what they are thinking. If they are meeting in the mayoral office and he invites them to take a seat, he probably notices their hesitation. We have all had too much information.

Whale Oil blogs Awkward is the best you can say:

I had a call from someone the other day from the Ngati Whatua room saying no one was sitting down. Just awkward people standing around…sniggering.

Councillors have done all they can to express there disappointment, frustration and disgust. Roughan:

They voted 15-5 to continue working with him. But most of the 15, including loyal Mike Lee, made it clear during the debate that the only reason they were doing so was they had to work with him, they could not force him out.What kind of man would stay when he has clearly lost the respect of even his closest allies? Lee said Auckland would be “officially dysfunctional” if they voted no confidence in the mayor. Lee had no illusions that Brown might do the decent thing.

So they settled for a “censure”, accepting the extraordinary advice that the council’s standing orders give them no right to vote no confidence in the mayor.

When the council members go to the barbecues they can say they have censured him. I don’t think they will find anybody impressed.

There is a little support and excuse making on blogs but the overall tone is overwhelmingly negative.

It is as though people are only now getting together to discover what almost all of them think. At some point in every barbecue somebody will say, “What do you think of Len Brown?” Eyebrows rise, heads shake in disbelief.

When it is quickly clear that nobody has anything to say in his favour, the question becomes, “do you think he can survive?”

Only Brown can decide if he stays as mayor, but the bigger question is how well will Auckland City manage with a crippled leader.

 The mayor is no longer respectable, he has become a joke and not a particularly funny one.

It looks like the very unfunny situation is set to continue. Bernard Orsman:

Yesterday, Mr Brown was on holiday and not responding to questions. It is understood he is taking a break to spend time with his wife, Shan Inglis, and family as part of trying to “redeem and rebuild myself in the eyes of my wife and children and wider family”.

The Brown family are planning to spend Christmas and New Year with relatives, then possibly take a family holiday overseas.

The mayor’s office said the mayor would resume public engagements in early to mid January.

That’s a sad non-joke, the mayor has been avoiding engagements to avoid embarrassment.

And the public doesn’t want to engage with down-trou Brown. They want a divorce.

In the meantime the city suffers.

Threats of more Brown revelations, Auckland crippled

Len Brown may have survived censure yesterday…

… but are there more revelations to come? Questions are still being asked, rumours and accusations abound, and there are gaps and inconsistencies in Brown’s explanations.

Brown already said there was nothing else but has now admitted that to be false.

“In this context I should not have accepted the free rooms offered to me, and should have disclosed this fact when I was asked about it in October.

“This was an error of judgement and I apologise to the people of Auckland.”

It was more than “an error of judgement”. Brown lied. Yesterday Brown again claimed there is nothing more.

RadioLIVE Newsroom ‏@LIVENewsDesk

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is adamant there are no more skeletons in the closet after a stern telling-off by councillors today.

Cameron Brewer during the public meeting yesterday:

Mr Brewer called for the Attorney General to investigate the hotel issue, which he says was only “glazed over” by the EY report.

He also called for full and final disclosure by the mayor: other perks, other girlfriends, other hotels, he says. He was disappointed by his fellow councillors who would not ask the mayor for final disclosure in today’s motions.

Dick Quax told 3 News yesterday the saga is not over.

“He’s been so badly damaged, and it’s my belief that there will be more revelations as well, of further unbecoming behaviour,” he says.

“I have heard that.”

And before yesterday’s meeting Whale Oil posted SOME IMPORTANT QUESTIONS COUNCILLORS NEED TO ASK

Once I had them there I’d ask a few more questions.

  1. Did the mayoress really make the bookings as claimed by Mayor Brown on television?
  2. How were the majority of bookings made? Internet or phone?
  3. Did the mayor solicit any of the upgrades himself?
  4. Of all the room bookings, how many were for daytime and how many for at night?
  5. What other information came to light during the investigation that fell outside the scope?

That then would lead onto questions for the mayor to answer:

  1. Why would the mayor need to book a hotel room in the middle of the day?
  2. Wasn’t he supposed to be working for the city 24/7?
  3. Why did you solicit the upgrades yourself?
  4. Why did you answer differently to Campbell Live?
  5. Do you ever tell the truth?

Then I would call in his driver and ask him just one question:

  1. How many times have you driven the mayoral car to 14 Tawa Drive, North Harbour?

There are, as the mayor’s former mistress says, many more questions that are required to be asked of the mayor and answered by him with some honesty for once in his miserable life.

There are still questions remaining over the secret trip to Hong Kong and the breaches of the code of conduct.

Two Hong Kong trips haven’t yet been fully disclosed. Brown and his staff have tried to keep details secret and have misinformed on these trips.

Some of Brown’s explanations have been inconsistent and incomplete. In a statement after the release of the EY report last week:

“My reason for staying in the central city is that I often work until late in the evening – attending meetings, functions or civic events – and I start work early the next morning.” 

On Wednesday on 95bFM:

“I was also thinking, ‘hey, look this has nothing to do with the council, this has nothing to do with spending ratepayers’ money’.

Last Friday on Campbell Live in response to the questions about why his wife arranged accommodation Brown said:

“because she loves me and I love her and she’s been basically looking after me by arranging through my office….”

Brown has claimed the hotel bookings were nothing to do with the council, but also says his wife booked them through his office.

Until all these questions are fully and clearly answered this scandal will haunt Brown. This will affect how he can do his job. And that will adversely affect Auckland City.

Of course more revelations and more proof of Brown not being open and honest, and lying, will surely mean he will have to resign.

But until that happens a lame duck mayor will cripple Auckland.

UPDATE: Christine Fletcher has just said on Firstline that while she has heard rumours tolerance has reached it’s limit, there must be no further revelations and Brown must show genuine contrition or his position is untenable.

Confidence gone, Brown gone by Christmas?

At today’s Auckland council meeting the attempt to have a vote of no confidence failed. Some councillors said it would put them in an impossible position if Len Brown didn’t resign, they would have to work with him having expressed no confidence in him.

The censure motion went ahead and passed as predicted. Amongst other things it unanimously expressed “profound disappointment and disapproval”.

NZ Herald reports: Vote over Mayor Len Brown’s censure passed

The motion of censure was unprecedented and was one of the strongest motions a fellow politician could give, Mr Lee said.

“It means we have chastised the mayor for his failings, and a motion of no confidence means that we can’t work with him.

“Members, we have a choice here and we have to try and move forward.”

Councillor Dick Quax said the council would only be able to move forward when Mr Brown was gone.

“He has been the architect of his own dilemma.”

So councillors have now expressed views ranging from profound disappointment and disapproval to no confidence. This further entrenches the untenable situation Brown is in.

Metro editor Simon Wilson blogs: Len Brown: gone by Christmas?

Len Brown will soon resign. The governing body of the Auckland Council has been meeting since 10am, and it’s still not over, and it’s clear in the debate that the mayor has lost the support of most councillors. That will make it extremely difficult for him to do his job.

When he understands that – and how longer could that possibly take? – he will step down.

 So why will Len Brown stand down?

In the current issue of the magazine, I have suggested that Brown’s misdemeanours are not sufficiently serious to require resignation, but if he loses his ability to do his job, that changes. If he cannot lead the council, he needs to find the courage and grace to step aside.

He’s reached that stage.

Can Brown still do his job? Widely viewed as a disgrace and/or a laughing stock, his only salvation lies in his potential to harness council support to lay that reputation to rest. He needs their goodwill and support if he is to have any chance of re-establishing his claim to leadership. But councillors have made it plain that cannot happen.

Brown should not be confused about this. Most councillors will not support the explicit right-wing attack on him, at least partly because they do not want this to be seen as a right-wing victory.

But he should recognise that they want him to resign anyway. They are waiting for him to do the decent thing.

Len Brown will soon be gone. It’s hard to see him lasting past Christmas.

I think that sums it up well.

Support for Brown has been evaporating since yesterday’s NZH editorial – Editorial: Brown must go for the good of the Super City

The Government is sending strong signals that it is up to Brown (implying to resign).

Collins to Len: Do you have the moral authority?

A senior Government minister says Mayor Len Brown has to question whether he has the moral authority to stay on as mayor.

Judith Collins, who has known Mr Brown for 30 years, made the comment this morning ahead of a council meeting at which the mayor will face motions of censure and no confidence.

She told RadioLive the mayor had to question whether he should stay on.

“My advice to Len is this – Len, do you have the moral authority to do what is an extremely important job?”

Ms Collins said she had been hearing consistently negative comments around Auckland about someone who people used to think very highly of.

“And I just think it’s really going to be very tough if he wishes to stay.

“But if he does, obviously we will work with anyone when it comes to the mayor of Auckland, and we have to as a Government. But Len’s really got to think about it.”

Brown’s friends and allies are advising him it’s time to go.

Len Old Friend: This Is Why You Must Stand Down

By Selwyn Manning 

Sometimes our strength is not measured by what we strive for, or hold onto, but by what we give up… If you go, you do so for the team, by forcing an election the voters of Auckland will get to choose who will lead the City’s council rather than that choice being made by those who currently occupy the Beehive. 

His council have now officially censured him and want to be able to move on. It’s hard to see how they can do that with him as mayor.

Confidence in Brown is evaporating, and their are signs his own confidence has taken a major hit.

A Christmas present for Auckland will be Brown’s resignation. Early would be better.

Then in the New Year the city can set about choosing a mayor that they have confidence and trust in.

 

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